Friday, May 05, 2006

Old Soldier, Not Fading Away.

Not content to retire from politics as an elder statesman with some small swatch of his dignity intact, Tom Sawyer seeks to alienate what’s left of the local party by filing an FEC complaint against Ohio 13 nominee Betty Sutton and EMILY’S List, alleging illegal coordination. Those of you doing a better job than me of keeping up with Lorain Morning Journal’s political reporting would have seen this coming:

Noting that the mailing addresses of Ohio Women Vote and Sutton's campaign use
the same Akron UPS office, Sawyer has suggested that the two may be more
coordinated than allowed by law.
''We are actively investigating a complaint,'' said Bill Burgess, an adviser to the campaign. ''We wouldn't be doing that if we didn't think there were grounds.''

I didn't know Burgess was working on the Sawyer campaign as well as Issue 1 in Akron. Good to know they are toiling so hard to keep their streak going.

It isn’t the first time EM-List has had to defend such a charge. This case in Florida actually provided more compelling facts – EM-List ran ads where the candidate did not. The FEC dismissed that complaint. I’ve found a total of four complaints where EM-L is a respondent. All have been dismissed.

In this case, the Occam’s Razor explanation is actually noncoordination. The mailings were ham-fisted, over-the-top riffs on statements Sutton had been making. Those of us who like Betty hated the mailings because they weren’t a reflection of her character. That’s what you would expect if a 527 was watching the race and developing materials based on the candidate’s platform. My read on Betty, based on the times I’ve talked to her, is that the mailings would have had a different tone if she had anything to say about them.

The complaint is not yet available. Presumably the factual allegation among the most compelling is the P.O. boxes. That issue is particularly silly. The UPS store in question is in Wallhaven, a retail/office district with lots of available space and plenty of coffee outlets – a prime spot for campaign offices. It’s about a block away from Sutton’s HQ in the Chem Workers building. Not much of a coincidence that OVW bought a mail drop there. If they had office space, Wallhaven would be a likely choice. If they didn’t, that UPS store is pretty much the best option. It’s cheaper than the Post Office, you can rent shorter term and the Walhaven location is convenient to everything and has ample parking. If they were trying to hide illegal coordination, getting a box across town would be the obvious move. Hell, if they were in any communication with the Sutton camp, they'd keep their mail drop as far from Betty as possible.

Past complaints give some indication of how EM-List goes about their business. In particular, check out their response to a complaint in Florida. EMILY’s List, the Washington office gives money to the candidate, provides training, what have you. Meanwhile, EM-List’s “project” Women Vote – and not clear if this is a subsidiary organization or an affiliate or a d/b/a – sets up shop in the jurisdiction in question as [State] Women Vote! and do whatever independent advocacy they deem appropriate. EM-List puts procedures in place whereby staff of EM-List proper and staff of Women Vote! don’t communicate.

I don’t know the extent of actual staffing for Ohio Women Vote. Based on a Google search, it doesn’t appear to have existed before the Sutton campaign. I know EM-List/OVW had people working in Akron because I ran into their canvassers Monday night in my neighborhood (who were nice to me even when I identified myself as Pho.)

Having had quite a throwdown with RussellPounderStaff over this issue, I see some value in Tom’s complaint. The FEC will investigate. If a preliminary investigation shows a reason to believe that the parties violated the law, the Commission will issue what I would have called a probable cause finding, but they oddly call a Reason to Believe finding. After that, a full-blown investigation, but I suspect this case (or Matter Under Re view or MUR)won’t get past the preliminaries.

EMILY’s List knows they wander the political landscape with a bullseye on their back. While I take serious issue with their tactics in this race, I don’t believe they are stupid and reckless enough to endanger their rep and a candidate’s viability by illegally coordinating. They have procedures in place to stay on the good side of the law and I expect they follow them scrupulously, just for the sake of survival.

I’ll try to follow the case, at least online, and report developments.


Jill said...

Pho, Thanks for the link to the Campaign Legal Center. I love self-educating and that's a site I could scour for a long time. Also, thanks for following this issue.

Anonymous said...

I hope local donors to Sutton and E's list remeber the name in that complaint, Bill Burgess.

And I hope Bill Burgess realizes how stupid it was to file an FEC complaint about a candidate supported by so many prominent local fundraisers and donors.

I know the establishment split up a couple of ways here, but we have a "democratic" consultant sueing one of the most prominent democratic fundraising groups and a candidate who was supported by a lot of very influential people in Northeastern Ohio.

But something tells me I'll burgess and burgess will do is take Tom's money and slap some stuff into a template they have in a file somewhere from '86.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm sure the FEC won't be able to prove a connection between Betty Slutton's campaign, EM List and OWV, I'm just glad to see that the public has been made aware of Betty's hypocritical campaign. You can't talk about "taking on" the special interests and then turn around and accept half a million dollars on behalf of one's campaign.

Anonymous said...

"Slutton" Oh Snap!

With that kind of brilliant campaign retort you must work for Burgess and Burgess.

That and your endless repitition that Emily's list is some sort of nefarious special interest, which is only true if you consider more than half the country a special interest.

Lawprofsr said...

"what...they oddly call a Reason to Believe finding," indeed. I've got the oddly appropo Karen Carpenter song running through my head:

If I listened long enough to you

I'd find a way to believe that it's all true

Knowing that you lied straight faced while I cried

Still I look to find a reason to believe

Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Eww. I like Rod Stewart's version better, and I don't generally like Rod Stewart.

Thanks for following this, Pho!

I made a plug for your blog on "American Street" (at "Brilliantly written" is what I wrote, and meant it. Now I'm curious if you notice any readers clicking over from there.

staff said...

Good run down.

Glad there will be a complaint - but it won't discover anything. This whole area of election law is grey and murky and designed to be exactly like that.

the FEC is a toothless organization - and also designed to be like that

Burgess needs to be put out to pasture.

Let's hope Betty works to build strong instate support that will carry her for years to come without having to rely on a special interest group.

TKE House said...

It was nice to see the ABJ give Sutton a much-deserved slap in an editorial over the weekend. Kudos to them for recognizing her hypocrisy in claiming to be an 'honestly different' kind of candidate. I hope she gets her act together before the general election, because the Republicans will not let her get away with running the kind of campaign that she did against Sawyer.

FamineHorse said...

Tom needs to go away.

B&B's template is from 1977 not 1986!

To all the Sutton-haters--she's the nominee & she will be Congresswoman come January. Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Famine you need to get out of your "real world bubble" and back in the blogosphere, here we know that no candidate who runs slightly sharp commercials about their opponent ever wins!

I mean look what happened to Bush after those mean mean nasty Willie Horton ads. Or Jesse Helms after "white hands" oh man that certainly taught them a lesson about negative campaigning.

Betty's certainly done for cause saying Tom took a lot of trips and Capri took immunity was so unbelieveably harsh I heard Karl Rove cried and Lee Atwater's ghost begged for mercy in the face of the unbelievable cruelty of it all.